Problems with Collectivization

The goal of collectivization in the Soviet Union was to consolidate individual land and labors into collective farms. Stalin stated collectivization was politically necessary, Stalin also stated that collectivization needed to be gradual and voluntary, two things it was not. The landless peasants were meant to benefit the most form collectivization, since they were to be given an equal share of the profits. The problem was most peasants were not landless and they did not want to have to give up their lands and sell their harvest at the minimal price, and most peasants were forced into collectivization against their will. Collectivization also created many social changes, which lead to even more discontent and resistance among the peasants. When it first began collectivization was successful in harvesting enough to feed the urban population, this success lead the Central Committee to expand collectivization, ignoring Stalin’s earlier statement that collectivization should be gradual.

The Realities of Collectivization

In 1928, Joseph Stalin addressed the need for collectivization of grain farms and the procurement of grain from villages throughout the Soviet countryside. His speech, “Grain Procurements and Prospects for Development of Agriculture,” attacks villages throughout Siberia who refused to relinquish their surplus grain to the State. He cites the grain shortage occurring throughout the country, and states, “The effect will be that our towns and industrial centres, as well as our Red Army, will be in grave difficulties; they will be poorly supplied and will be threatened with hunger. Obviously, we cannot allow that.”[1] This statement highlights the fragility of the Soviet Union at the beginning of Stalin’s time in office. It also demonstrates his fears of an unnecessary war that the Soviet Union could not withstand, as Lynne Viola mentions in her chapter on collectivization.[2] In an attempt to motivate the local masses, Stalin accuses the local Party organizations and kulak, or local gentry, of hoarding the surplus grain, and implores the peasants to force the kulak to give the grain to the State. However, as his subsequent speeches and the legislation of the Central Committee in the following years indicates, this call to action led the collectivization efforts to spin out of control and away from the State’s expectations.

Viola notes in her chapter the violence that resulted from Stalin’s collectivization plans and his anti-kulak statements. The cadres placed in the countryside, wishing to prove themselves to the State, forced peasants and workers to collectivize in order to reach their quotas. They also attacked the kulak in order to force them to give up their capitalistic system of grain management. Such actions led to Stalin’s “Dizzy with Success” speech in March of 1930 and the Central Committee’s On Forced Collectivization of Livestock legislation in March of 1932. After mentioning the success of completely socializing the countryside, Stalin attempts to reprimand the country peasants and quell the attacks on the kulak. He states, “They [successful people] show a tendency to overrate their own strength and to underrate the strength of the enemy.”[3] The success of collectivization is and should be the voluntary nature of collective-farm movement, he reminds the populous.

Similarly, the Central Committee calls the forced collectivization of the countryside a “flagrant violation of repeatedly issued directives.”[4] However, this resolution remained ineffective given the soft language used when telling the party how to address the problem on the ground. “The TsK of the VKP (b) proposes to all party, Soviet and kolkhoz organizations…”[5] The word “proposes” is not nearly as definitive or intimidating enough to force the party officials along the countryside to adhere to the Committee’s suggestions, when they gained popularity and success administering collectivization their own ways through pressure and fear.

As Viola demonstrates in her chapter, due to Stalin’s insufficient intervention and the Committee’s ineffective, unenforceable legislation, party officials throughout the countryside developed their own system of collectivization that nearly destroyed the government’s mission as well as the country.

[1] J.V. Stalin, Grain Procurements and the Prospects for the Development of Agriculture,

[2] Lynne Viola, “Collectivization as a Revolution,” in Robert V. Daniels (ed.) The Stalin Revolution: Foundations of the Totalitarian Era. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994: 108-126.

[3] J.V. Stalin,

[4] TsK VKP (b), On Forced Collectivization of Livestock,

[5] Ibid.